“I love a challenge. I love the grind. That’s part of what I bring to a team – I’m a gritty person who likes to work hard.”

Jordan Haynes won’t run away from anything. He’s got both the mental and physical scars from last year, his first season with Valour FC, and he wears them as badges.

They represent his struggles but also his perseverance, after all, and he carried them all winter into Valour FC training camp, now a month old.

“You can’t forget the past,” Haynes told after a training session this week at WSF North. “The only way to grow in the future is to use what happened in the past. Obviously, you can’t dwell on it – you’ve got to use it as a learning experience or, maybe, to add fuel to your fire.

“I just put my head down and tried to do what I could for the team last year. In the end – and there’s no sugar-coating it – we came dead last. Now we have another chance.

“There’s only up from here and I’m using it for fuel to get much better this year.”

Just to recap, after signing with Valour following three seasons with Pacific FC, the veteran fullback was limited to just 903 minutes over 14 appearances last year. His physical struggles began with a bruised fat pad in his heel in camp and he later dealt with two hamstring injuries. And the heel injury…

“Running was… I mean, I couldn’t even walk,” he recalled. “And then any time it was feeling good, and I was coming back into training I’d take one good hard stomp, or maybe try to block a cross I’d plant, and it would happen again. It was excruciating. I wouldn’t wish that injury upon any one because one moment you’d think you’re good and then the next moment you’re out for a week and a half because you can’t even walk.

“And when I was finally able to come back, I had one game where I played a full half, started the next game and within a half hour had pulled my hamstring. Then I re-hurt it trying to come back too soon.”

Make no mistake here, Haynes was far from complaining when recalling his injury history from ’23. Again, he’s chosen to wear them as badges and as to having survived it all.

“I love a challenge. I love the grind. That’s part of what I bring to a team – I’m a gritty person who likes to work hard,” he said. “We’ve got a few likeminded people on this team that want to take a challenge head on.

“It’s a mental thing. Everybody has it in them to do it, it’s whether you have the mindset to do it and with the right mindset you can do anything.”

A healthy return for Haynes should be pivotal for Valour this season as it has undergone significant change along its back line. He and centre back Abdou Samake are the only returnees from last year, with the roster including additions like former York United centre back Tass Mourdoukoutas, veteran Roberto Alarcon, formerly of Cavalry FC, towering new centre back Haris Chantzopouos, a 29-year-old veteran with experience in Finland and the USL and CPL U-Sports draft pick Frankie Facchineri.

“My goal coming into the season was to have a complete preseason,” said Haynes. “Obviously, there’s a knock-on wood aspect to that – (he grinned here while taping his head) – but I want to stay healthy and set myself up to have an actual full season.

“What I like is we’ve got a good group of guys with a similar mindset. We’re all trying to work toward the same thing, even the new guys coming in who know where Valour was at last year. I know Phil (Dos Santos, GM and head coach) has a goal and I believe we’ve done the due diligence to fit players to that goal.”